Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – November 2009

Volume 9 Number 11


1. Welcome

2. Promoting Responsibility

3. Increasing Effectiveness

4. Improving Relationships

5. Promoting Learning

6. Parenting

7. Discipline without Stress

8. Testimonials and Research



I know you believe you understood what you think I said,
but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not
what I meant.
–from a desk plaque of Chris Gilissen when we were both
assistant principals at Westminster High School,



Can you explain the difference between praise and acknowledgment?


It’s important to be aware of the difference between praise
and acknowledgment because so often we praise when we would
really rather create the outcome that acknowledgment
accomplishes. Acknowledgments encourage and motivate. They
serve to give recognition without the disadvantages of

The following two characteristics usually determine whether
a comment is one of praise or one of acknowledgment:

1. Praise often starts with a reference to oneself, as in
-“I am so proud of you for…. ”
-“I like the way….”

2. Praise is patronizing.

Praise has a price. It implies a lack of acceptance and
worth when the youth does not behave as the adult wishes.
Using a phrase which starts with, “I like,” encourages a
young person to behave in order to please the adult. By
contrast, acknowledgment simply affirms and fosters
self-satisfaction in the young person.

Notice the difference in the following examples:

“I am so pleased with the way you treated your brother.”

“You treated your brother very well.”

“I like the way you are working.”

“Your working shows good focus and control.”

“I’m so proud of you for your good grades.”

“Your grades show success in school. How do you feel about

Here is something to consider:
If you would not make the comment to an adult, then think
twice before making it to a young person.


One of the reasons we do not get what we want is that
sometimes we are a lot clearer about what we don’t want than
about what we do want.

When asked what they want, people often respond with what
they don’t want. When what they don’t want is the clearest
thing in their minds, then that is what they are most likely
to get.

As soon as you get clear and make a claim for what you DO
want, the greater the chances are of your getting it.

Clarity is critical, and positivity is always more
successful than negativity.


Here are five tips for getting along with anyone.

1. Focus on issues, not personalities.
Many people unknowingly use trigger words that can
disable a conversation and may ultimately destroy a
relationship. Such words as dumb, stupid, and
unprofessional criticize the person, rather than the
content of their ideas or specific actions.

2. Communicate clearly.
Then ask questions such as, “Am I making any sense?” or
“Am I clear in what I’m saying?”

3. Be aware of your body language (kinesics).
Shaking one’s head, turning away, or shrugging your
shoulders can send the wrong message. It’s not only what
you say, but how you say it, and SHOW it that counts.

4. Thank people.
One of the most overlooked phrases in the English
language is “Thank you.” It’s not just important to value
people but to let them know so they know you value them.

5. Admit mistakes.
Another of the most influential phrases is, “I made a
mistake.” It’s almost amazing how saying this reduces
negative feelings.


The following is a post from Kerry at

My teaching partner, Darlene, and I recently gave a
presentation for the many new staff members who have joined
our school since we first studied DWS seven years ago. While
highlighting the skill of reflection and the use of
questioning in the DWS approach, one of our colleagues,
Charlie Fagan, shared a list of questions that he finds can
empower young learners. He got this list from a counselor
years ago.

Charlie teaches his students to use these questions as an
aid to improve their ability to focus and learn. He
introduces the questions OVER A PERIOD OF A COUPLE OF
MONTHS, adding one new question at a time. He has noticed
that unfocused students become more aware of things that
distract them from their learning and are more willing to
take responsibility for their learning behavior when they
are encouraged to ask themselves the following questions:


Students should be encouraged to ask themselves:

1. Am I here now? (Meaning “Am I fully present?”) Sometimes
Charlie actually encourages kids to leave the room and come
back in once they feel they’re ready to learn. For most,
that only takes a minute–perhaps a trip to the water
fountain and back is enough to adjust their frame of mind.
Others may need longer to shake off something that’s
happened at home or on the playground. In that case, he
might find an adult in the school who has a minute to speak
with the student and help them to make a better start to the
next portion ofthe day.

2. Am I focused?

3. Am I listening to the teacher?

4. Do I know what I have just read?

5. Is my mind wandering?

6. Is the voice in my head taking me off task?

7. Am I being distracted by sights, sounds or other people?

8. Do I need to ask for help to clarify any confusion?

9. Is my desk clear of distractions?
As DWS promises in its three principles (positivity, choice,
and reflection) it’s much more positive and effective if a
child makes a proactive decision to get rid of his/her own
toys rather than having a teacher confiscate them when they
become a problem.

10. Should I change where I’m sitting to be in a better
place to learn?


More of Kerry’s posts are available at

6. Parenting

The following is from a USA TODAY article of September 2,


There is growing research on “self-regulation”–people’s
ability to stop, think, make a plan, and control their

These are the same skills needed to do well in school and in

Researchers have become keenly interested in psychologist
Walter Mischel’s famous “marshmallow study” from the 1960Õs
in which a researcher would place a marshmallow in front of
a hungry 4-year-old and tell the child that she could eat
the marshmallow right then–or have two if she waited until
the researcher returned. About a third of the children could
distract themselves and wait.

Followed for years, these disciplined kids had better school
outcomes and scored more than 200 points higher on the SAT
than the children who shoved the marshmallow in their mouths
right away.

The ability to control behavior in purposeful ways has
enormous implications for later life. For example, the
ability to control impulses is critical for choosing to
study instead of watching TV.

Unfortunately, children are getting less and less practice
in self-regulation. They don’t spend much time observing
adults beyond their care givers as they go about their work
and their daily lives. They watch a lot of TV and play
video games, neither of which promotes impulse control.

Widespread practices of modern parenting don’t help older
children flex their muscles necessary to master themselves.
We hate to see children make mistakes, or worse, fail.
Rather than challenging children and teens to self-regulate,
the easier approach is to regulate them.

Parents “help” in science fair projects. Well-meaning moms
and dads race to school with forgotten assignments rather
than view such mistakes as an opportunity to coach children
to solve their own problems. These actions have positive
immediate outcomes, but they undermine the self-regulation
skills children will need as adults who are suddenly
responsible for planning their own lives.

Parents need to “back off” when kids get frustrated but
encourage them and direct them in positive ways.


How to do this is a prime focus in the new book described
at http://parentingwithoutstress.com/

7. Discipline without Stress (DWS)

The following is from the mailring


Here is a question I have for the DWS gurus out there. What
kinds of positive recognitions do you use in your classroom?
I don’t mean like prizes or rewards, but recognizing good
choices. Do you ask the kids about their behavior when
they’re doing the right thing and emphasize how good it
feels or how it’s going to lead to getting what you want?
Do you use any kind of awards?

The teacher across the hall uses a fish stuffed animal (she
uses the FISH philosophy in her room) as a “mascot” and
chooses a student every weekend to take it home. She chooses
the student who has “earned” it by making good choices all
week. She really hams it up and makes it a big deal and the
kids get really excited about it.

I was thinking that I wanted to incorporate some more
positive recognition. But I don’t want to choose students
who have “been good” because I don’t want to send that
message. Rather, I want to acknowledge things like clean
desks every week, homework completion, and things that are
tangible and easy to recognize.

So I guess what I’m looking for are thoughts on these kinds
of “awards,” good or bad–if you use anything like it in
your rooms or other things you do to recognize the positive.



Since we use reflective questions to help kids evaluate
negative behavior, we would do the same with positive
behavior. When a kid reflects on how she felt after helping
someone, we are telling her that what is important is how
she feels, that intrinsic reward–not that her self-esteem
is dependent and contingent on what others are saying.
Feedback is important, but it can be given as information
rather than trying to be manipulative and be judgmental,
inferring “You are doing what I want.”

PROCESS, not the end result. We want to focus on the
motives. So completing homework does not say very much as to
whether the kid is enjoying learning and found the homework
challenging and interesting.

The other teacher is using rewards and awards to externally
promote interest and get compliance. It works in the short
term but undermines any prospect of developing an interest
or love for the learning itself. The competition of putting
kids against one another, ranking them, inferring that one
student’s success is dependent on another person’s failure
are not really conducive with the values of caring and
cooperative learning that we are trying to foster.
Competition is not only bad for the weak students, the
so-called losers, but even the A students lose out. And the
parents, too: My kid came home with the mascot and yours

We cannot only ask what type of person kids want to be and
what actions support these values, but kids could also be
prompted to ask what type of classroom they want, talking in
the plural we, rather than I.

We don’t need rewards and recognitions to extort extra
effort. If we make it interesting, focus on connecting,
kids’ natural curiosity to learn, and make learning
associated with fun then we promote intrinsic motivation.
When we use praise, rewards, and recognition (vs.
acknowledgments), we change their motivation so that it
becomes to get the praise, reward, and recognition.

8. Testimonials/Research

Here is a cute story about rewards in a classroom:

I teach first grade, and sometimes just getting the kids to
remember their folders and to sharpen pencils is a chore.
I usually start out the year reminding them, nagging
them, and finally giving up. THEY don’t care if they have
a folder or a pencil. I’m the only one who seems bothered.
So I put a sticker chart in their folders and offer stickers
and trips to the treasure box if they come prepared. I
KNOW it’s not helping, and it bothers me every day as I
waste time on this activity, but at least they have pencils
when we start to work.

One day recently I was monitoring the kids’ work. I
commented to one boy about his pencil; it was really short
and dull. He said it was all he had, but in his pencil
holder on his desk there were three long, sharp pencils just
sitting there. I asked him about those. He said, “But those
are my sharp pencils! I don’t use those. Those are just for
getting stickers.”

It took me all year to realize that this kid had used the
same sharp pencils EVERY DAY to get a sticker, but never
once used them to write with. So much for external
motivation transferring to internal motivation!

From “Parenting Without Stress: How to Raise Responsible
Kids While Keeping a Life of Your Own,” p. 190.